‘Jump in a nuclear reactor and die!’
Those were the words directed at the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) by one angry man at the tense stockholders meeting held today on June 28. It captured the sentiment of many people in Japan who are demanding the company take responsibility for the meltdown on March 11, at the nuclear power plant TEPCO managed and owns. The meeting inside did not run smoothly but meltdown was avoided. Outside the meeting, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Riot Squad held back the right- and left-wing demonstrators as well as a contingent of anti-nuclear protesters. Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of the firm offered his apologies. He was re-elected as chairman the same day. He is a very good apologist. In 2003, after it had been widely reported that TEPCO had falsified safety data at dozens of reactors he also spoke for the company saying, “I wish to begin by expressing regret for the recent cases of misconduct at our company, which have eroded public confidence in the nuclear power industry.”
Recent events have not helped restore that public confidence.
Every evening NHK, the BBC of Japan, announces the radiation levels for major cities in the country as regularly as the weather report. Another nightly news staple is the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the monolithic corporation which has a monopoly on electric power in the greater Tokyo area and operated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant where at least three nuclear reactors melted down, irradiating the entire nation and forcing thousands to evacuate. The meltdown began on March 11, the day a 9.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Japan. For the first day, TEPCO strongly denied any problems at the plant but by March 12, reactor one had already melted down. Each subsequent day brings more news of radiation leaking from the plant and mistakes, cover-ups, and corporate malfeasance by TEPCO. Slowly voices within and outside the Japanese government are beginning to suggest that it’s time to dismantle the company and put their nuclear plants under government supervision; books highly critical of the firmare becoming best sellers.